Squamish climbing has been an exciting place to be a climber in the last decade. The climbing scene seems to be gaining momentum every year with ever increasing population of dedicated resident climbers, rapid new route development at both ends of the grade spectrum, mind boggling free solos, speed ascents, and enchainments of multiple hard free routes in a day. Visits from big name talents such as Alex Honnold, Chris Sharma, and Yuji Hiryama coupled with local stone masters such as Will Stanhope, Sonnie Trotter, and Ben Harnden leaves little doubt the Squamish is gaining the reputation of the world class granite climbing destination it deserves rather than the rainy little backwater it used to be viewed as.
2012 seemed to be the season where the locals had harnessed the energy and psyche of the preceding years and proved that the potential of the place has far from peeked. Creativity, inspiration, and collective psyche were the hallmarks of this exciting year. The amount of high quality routes established in 2012 could likely only be compared to the peak of free climbing “golden age” of the mid 80’s.
Murrin Park, with short approaches and some of the most sublimely featured granite anywhere, saw rapid development in the spring of 2012. The action centered around 3 close proximity cliffs:
“There isn’t a bad move on the entire cliff” – Sonnie Trotter.
The Quercus Cliff sits in an Idyllic grove of douglas firs set above and well back from the highway noise. This cliff is like the lost moon of Petrifying Wall, although not as extensive as the Pet, it features the same amazing vertical face climbing. Rediscovered by Colin Moorhead in 2009, Colin slowly picked off some of the plums including the intricate and engaging traditional masterpiece The Oracle and the beautifully thin sport route Vorpal Sword.
Word caught on and the spring saw the route count triple. Stewart Hughes kept true to his UK roots and ruined a perfectly good sport route by establishing The Man From Delmonte 5.12c . Climbed on sparse gear, and utilizing the cryptic and mystical double rope technique. This scary classic saw several repeats, proving that there is indeed an appetite for bold, traditional climbs, although none of the repeat ascensionists (Canadians) could figure out how to use double ropes, opting for rope drag rather than taking the time to figure out how to get two ropes into their belayers gri gri. Jeremy Smith came impressively close to onsighting this route, falling near the top, ripping a piece that knocked out a tooth, proving that hard trad climbing is no joke. Peter Winter bagged the proud center line of the cliff, fully bolted, A Prince Among Thieves 5.12b has some of the most intriguing climbing on the wall. Emilisa Frirdich re-bolted, recleaned, and freed an old Nick Jones project, The Querculator 5.12b the first half of which is an amazing 5.10d to a mid way anchor. Sonnie Trotter added the most difficult route to wall Nothing in Moderation 5.13c has one truly brutal boulder problem in the middle of otherwise “moderate” (for Sonnie) 5.11d climbing.
The pragmatically named Lakeside in the Woods cliff saw several noteworthy additions. On the right side of the impressively steep and depressingly blank center section of the wall is the sight of an old Matt Maddoloni aid route The Gunslinger. Will Stanhope started putting serious effort into free climbing this serious line, taking big falls onto less than optimal gear. A shallow medium cam backed by a small cam and a very alert belayer is all that will stop the climber from decking, falling from the exit would likely result in a trip to the ICU or the morgue. The soft spoken Ben Harnden started to work on the glassy arch, quickly mastering the moves and casually dispatching the FFA of The Gunslinger 5.13d. Will took a break from working the line, during which he went on a free solo bender that included the first cordless ascents of The Whistler 500 5.12b and Zombie Roof 5.12d. Will returned in the summer and dispatched the second ascent on his first lead burn.
Jeremy Smith spent the spring attempting an even more ambitious and bolder line. Sharing the same start as The Gunslinger, this line breaks out right on ridiculously small crimps. Eschewing top rope rehearsal, Jeremy just started trying to send the thing, taking many, wild , swinging falls, the last of which broke his hand. Jeremy vowed to be back in 2013 and is already making a great recovery as is demonstrated by his early season send of the very badass Year of the Snake 5.13b the first trad route on the heavily abused Cacodaemon Boulder. Also on the Cacodaemon Boulder, after a summer of hard work and dealing with less than optimal humidity Ben Harnden made the proud third ascent of Dream Catcher 5.14d with very little fanfare.
The lower left side of the Lakeside Wall saw a couple more new routes. The most noteworthy being The Burglar 5.10d, featuring overhanging jug hauling followed by a technical crux. This sport route will likely become one of the most popular climbs in Murrin.
Chris Small and Kevin Heshaw, spent many days establishing The Commonwealth. This crag features numerous high quality routes in the easier grades. This cliff is a great addition to the area. Located just 100m back from the lake shore and shaded by old growth forest, it will be a popular spot on hot summer afternoons. The Commonwealth will relieve a lot of pressure from ever popular Sugarloaf and help make Murrin more of a destination for those seeking moderate climbing. Although every climb on this wall is worthwhile, standout climbs are Ancient Squamish Secret 5.9, Hungry, Hungry Hippos 5.10a, and It’s Not Easy Being Green 5.10a.
At the Papoose Kris Wild had spent his winter removing the gardens from the 1965 bush/aid climb Hanging Gardens, unveiling a sparkling and instantly popular 3 pitch 5.10c. John Howe rekindled his love affair with the Papoose that started in 1981 with his super classic Centerfold. By linking Mercury Vapor into the upper pitches of Pinup via an exciting, featured traverse pitch he produced the 4 pitch Transit of Venus 5.10a this route is continually sustained at the grade and should prove to be very popular. The more direct Red Planet 5.11b has two pitches of 5.11 back to back, the second being an aesthetic and unlikely section through the steep overlaps to the right of Pinup. On the backside of the formation Eric Hughes put some effort into repeating one of Peter Crofts more obscure test pieces. Climbed in 1987, the same year of his groundbreaking free solo of Astro Man, Baby Bum 5.12d, was rated .12a by Croft. Owing to his British heritage, Eric was able to nab the likely second ascent by using arcane double rope trickery.
The Chief saw some noteworthy new climbs. By far the most popular being the three pitch The Rambles 5.7. Located on the lower Apron this interesting a varied climb adds 100 meters of extra climbing to routes such as Diedre and Bannana Peel. This route was meticulously cleaned and equipped to be very user friendly. This was Jeremy’s last new route in Squamish before moving to Winnipeg. Jeremy’s annual contributions of moderate new routes will be missed.
In the South Gulley sits the very visible giant ceiling of The Terror, aided in the late 60’s, this route has been begging for an free ascent for decades. Any climber walking past on the way to Rock On has ogled this route. Jamie Finlayson settled all speculation by dispatching the long undercling at a surprisingly modest 5.11c.
The amazing Prow Wall is finally getting the attention and traffic it deserves, and saw several excellent new pitches added.
Sonnie Trotter with various partners put together an awesome and sustained link up. Starting up the first two pitches of Gravity Bong before breaking out right on a difficult, bolted, finger traverse pitch 5.13a. This deposits you at the base of a very impressive overhanging dihedral. The Masher Crack 5.12a, starts out with reasonable overhanging hands, the fun soon ends as the leaning crack suddenly widens to a 7 inch monster. Jesse Huey gave his all trying to jam this thing straight in but he got his ass kicked. Sonnie wanted no part of meat grinder technique and bolted the wide section. Laybacking the edge and bagging the FA of the one best corner features on the Chief. Above the route climbs the second pitch of Power of Yesterday. The finale is the Goldrush Finish 5.11d climbing a wild inverted staircase, corner feature.
Evan Stevens and friends completed his vision of a sub 5.13 route that tops out the Prow Wall. The 6 pitch UnBearable 5.12a is the easiest venture up this impressive wall and is highly recommended. Jeremy Blumel produced Speechless 5.13b on the clean overhanging north aspect of the Prow feature, adding another five star pitch to the sector.
Several brand new cliffs in the general area of the Squaw saw heavy development producing a massive quantity of high quality climbs. On the nondescript bluffs between the Squaw and the Zodiac Wall, Glen Woloski and Harry Young unveiled the instant classic Disaster Response 5.10c, a varied and steep 3 pitch crack climb, on the adjacent Pox Wall several more worthwile single pitch routes were established, with Staples 5.11a being a particularly aesthetic “Squamish style” finger crack.
Exploring beyond Andrew Boyd and Derek Fletts mysterious Catalan Wall. Charlie Long and Colin Moorhead came back wide eyed with stories of a massive crag stacked with burly, overhanging cracks and offwidths, ready to be climbed.
Located behind the Squaw-Chief Col, the area is the second of the two large, visible crags that can be seen clearly from the Smoke Bluffs.The extensive crag quickly became known as The Longhouse. Eighteen new pitches were established by the end of the season. The Longhouse is divided into two aspects, the north face has several different sectors and five established routes, the best of which being the overhanging, locking fingers of Josh Lavigne’s Chink in the Barrel 5.10d. The long west facing wall is situated in a gulley feature and is very comparable to the Cirque both in height, steepness, and amount of wide cracks. Colin Moorhead plucked the highly praised Shapeshifter 5.11d, which features sustained overhanging handjamming to a climatic fingercrack crux finish. Paul McSorley was an instant convert to the area describing the ambience as soulful, and the setting as irie. Paul snagged side by side FA’s of the Crosmonaut 5.11d and Luebben or Leave It 5.11a, the former being an impressive hand/fist testpiece, the latter an offwidth line that is a worthy tribute to late offwidth master Craig Luebben.
Along with egotistically naming the entire cliff after himself, Charlie Long bagged more new lines at the area than anyone. The Longhouse Crack 5.10b is the most singularly stunning line along the wall, and is a surprisingly moderate offwidth adventure. British powerhouse Hazel Findlay came for a quick visit and casually dispatched one of the harder, naturally protected routes in Squamish, the bold Adder Crack 5.13c is another classic in Squamish’s ever growing list of hardcore, high end, trad routes. Using clever double rope tactics to maximize minimal pro, the Adder awaits a single rope (Canadian) ascent.
Among the acres of undeveloped vertical terrain to the east of the Squaw proper lies what is likely the most significant single crag to be developed in Squamish since the 1986 pillaging of Petrifying Wall.
The Top Shelf discovered separately but around the same time by Jason Green and Jesse Redden or by Robin Barley. Jesse and Jason giving the cliff its current name, Robin’s stuffy, English title for the cliff “The Treasury of Cracks” didn’t really stick. By the end of the season the area had around forty established pitches, the majority being above average quality. Most of the climbing is tipped back just beyond vertical and although there are some quality bolted pitches the cliff is predominately trad climbing. The cliff is in a lofty setting, high above the suburb of Valleycliffe, has shade for most of the day, and is very quick drying.
Although there are several contributors to this area, special accolades need to given to two individuals. Firstly, Robin Barley for having the vision to properly build trails and clear the land, making a super user friendly area. Secondly to Jesse Redden for being more psyched than anyone on the place and methodically delivering the latest “best route on the cliff” pretty much every week, all season.
Although there are several other sectors under development the majority of the climbing can be divided up into two adjacent walls that are obviously separated by a distinct aspect change. The beautiful thin hands dihedral of Eye Catcher 5.10d is the first route encountered and is Barley’s best contribution to the area. To the right standout climbs are Jason Green’s spicy thin crack Meltdown 5.11d, Harry Young’s long endurance oriented Hand Crusher 5.11b, and Colin Moorhead’s Trippett Out 5.13a, a beautiful thin crack with an exciting boulder problem finish.
The left hand sector is totally stacked, almost every climb is of exceptional quality. Jesse Redden focused his energy in this area and bagged numerous classics, two of the best being Headbangers in Leather 5.11d a gymnastic, naturally protected testpeice and Safe as Milk 5.12b a striking, straight in, thin splitter. Jason Green’s Made From Fire 5.12a could be the best 5.12 finger crack in Squamish. Chris Hecmovic bolted the excellent power laybacking testpiece, Darkest Day 5.12a resulting in one of the most popular lines in the area.Harry Young didn’t give up on the proud central crack line of the cliff, returning numerous times to bag a redpoint of Perseverance 5.11c, a route that has thwarted the onsight attempts of numerous “solid 5.12” climbers.
Down in the Smoke Bluffs several different teams of developers have been proving that the Bluff’s are far from climbed out. Among the best of the recent upgrades is John Harvey’s renovation of the Cabin Boy’s Office. Turning what was once an obscure, mossed over backwater of a cliff into a destination crag that is one of the coolest hangs in the park.
Lastly, “hardest new shit established in 2012” award goes to Sonnie Trotter (who else?). Sonnie, who is no stranger to adventure climbing, really got the Squamish new routing bug last year. He turned into a new routing terminator, that made all other developers a little nervous knowing their coveted lines were no longer safe. In the summer, Sonnie finally succeeded on one of the first routes he bolted in the spring. Located at the Furry Creek Crag, Battle For Evermore 5.14a takes a ridiculously overhanging flare-come fin feature, and is one of those routes that most can only stare at and wish.Sonnie’s relocation out of Squamish is another blow to Squamish. We all hope that our hero returns and continues to bestow his inspiration and enthusiasm on our uniquely Canadian rock climbing community.